Friday, 8 June 2012

"A better position for my Sacristry" is well worth the wait

Players: Paul, Noel, Tom, Woody, Philip, Ian, Gareth, Jeff, Jeff’s two friends, Johan, Dan, David and David’s friend / family (apologies for unknown names).

After a sluggish start with only three players having arrived by 7pm, a steady trickle of arriving gamers meant that there was a half decent turnout later in the evening. The highlights included:
 - Ian and Jeff both making a second recent appearance after not seeing much of them recently – yay! 
 - A return from our new American friend David, holidaying in Richmond and this time bringing along a friend / family member
 - Two of Jeff’s friends turning up for a game of Puerto Rico 
 - Philip finally getting to play a euro heavy – Ian I’m sure that Philip will be grateful for many months to come 
 - Dan turning up a little late and turning down the chance to tag onto the game of Airline Europe that we’d started 60 seconds before, citing his experience last week as all the reason he needed, then being spotted deeply into a game of Airlines at the end of the evening.

And as it’s my first time at editing the blog, please find herewith my many disclaimers for sloppiness, grammatical howlers and all round illustrations of my self-diagnosed dyslexia. My editing highlight is learning what a sacristry is, after my spell check highlighting it as an illegal word and having to look it up. I will be grateful to Philip for many months. Thanks to Tom, Noel and Philip who'd all written reports and sent them to me by Thursday - must be some kind of record. Paul

6 Nimmt

6 Nimmt
Early(ish) arrivers filled some time watching Philip collect as many bulls as he could at 6 Nimmt. Woody certainly managed not to pick up anything, although as scores weren’t strictly kept, it is uncertain if anyone else managed that feat (apologies if anyone else is deprived of any glory).
Scores: Woody: 0 (won), Everyone else: a few, Philip: lots (lost)

Ora et Labora
Ora et Labora (thanks Philip)

After weeks of trying to get this heavy eurogame to the table Philip finally managed to persuade Ian to play the two player version. They played the French side as that was new to Ian. 
The two player game seems to flow much more easily than the four player game. Players simply take it in turns to take 2 actions with the wheel rotating each turn. There are only four settlement phases and the game ends when the penultimate building is built.

Philip opened with the Cloister Courtyard, buying some coastline with the resulting Coins. Ian countered with the Peat-Charcoal Kiln. Ian had a fairly focused approach to getting the necessary resources. Ian built the Stone Merchant and later the Quarry, making him the only source of Stone. Ian also built the Grapevine and Winery, likewise monopolising the Grapes and Wine sector. Ian’s early purchase of Stone allowed him to build the Market while Philip focused on Bread production with the Windmill and Bakery. 

They both built Fishing Villages, Artist Colonies and Hamlents in the first three Settlement phases but for the fourth one Ian hadn’t collected enough food and fuel and so had to settle for a Farming Village. Meanwhile he had completed the Slaughterhouse and the Shipyard, meaning he had the full set of buildings with negative Settlement value. Philip bought enough Stone from his Stone Merchant to complete the Harbour Promenade, a valuable source of Ceramics, and the Cloister Library, which makes Books.

Around this point Phillip paid Ian for 10 Grapes which had been building up on the wheel and paid him again to turn the Grapes into Wine and 1 Wine into cash. We then entered into a sort of Cash race to get the Palace, which costs 25 Coins and is worth 25 VPs and 8 VPs per Settlement adjacent to it. Philip won the race, possibly due to my prior knowledge of the buildings, since he was able to build the Town Estate and sell my Ceramics for 12 Coins. 

Meanwhile Ian built the valuable Filial Church and Castle, the latter allowing him to play his Village and then his Shanty Town. Philip also made use of the Castle to play my Hilltop Village. We were now entering the end phase with few buildings left. Ian converted the spare cash left over from the race to the Palace into Chalices via the Forger’s Workshop. 

Philip had the majority of Monastic buildings so was looking at House of the Brotherhood, but he ran out of Stone before he could build it. He was able to complete the Sacristry and produce a Wonder, and also built the Dormitory without using it to get a better position for the Sacristry. Ian gained some Books with the Printing Office and Phillip decided to end the game by building the Shipping Company, choosing to take Wine.

Scores: Philip 276, Ian 269.

Airlines Europe
Airlines Europe (thanks Noel)

After last week’s fun with Airlines, Paul, Tom, Noel played again and Woody joined in for his second game. Dan missed out due to arriving 10 minutes late but to his joy he managed to get in another Airlines game later in the evening. 

With everyone familiar with the rules, things moved quickly and, like every game of Airlines, the first two scoring cards came out much quicker than anticipated with everyone wanting one more turn to complete their killer move. Noel lost out on scoring with his 3 orange cards in these rounds but made up for it with big points for White and took 2nd place in a number of others. Tom led both abacus airlines shares for these scoring rounds and Paul scored well in orange and purple off Noel's and Tom's route placement and his placement of batches of shares.

With the endgame approaching about 50 minutes in, Noel got some Abacus down to pick up 3rd place in this but Woody place 4 in the final turn to take the 16 points on offer. It seemed this might have been enough to swing it but Noel had accumulated enough through the game to take the win.

Scores: Noel 67 Woody 60 Tom 59 Paul 57.

A Castle for All Seasons (thanks Tom)

Following their exploits as wannabe Bransons, the decision was made by the Airlines Europe crew to partake in the medieval Grand Designs of Castle for All Seasons, a light/medium weight Euro which appears to have been dubbed the little brother of Pillars of the Earth (and the 1st cousin once removed of Stone Age).

In short, the players are placed in the roles of architects of a medieval castle who each turn are allowed to undertake a particular role from a choice of six. This is with a view to constructing buildings and/or placing helpers within the castle, which in turn will garner precious victory points. The roles vary from pure money generation (the Messenger) and resource management (Trader) to more complex hybrids (Stonemason/Bricklayer/Worker). Once played, a role card stays in a player's discard pile until they play the Master Builder. Well timed use of the Master Builder is one of the keys to winning CFAS as it not only allows a player to pick up his discard pile but will also award the player 5 VPs for any building placed during the round by the other players.

Tom was randomly chosen as first player which allowed him instantly to establish himself as trader in stone and garner easy high value resources as the others soon followed suit. Thereafter, the players embarked on markedly different strategies.

Tom noting the various towers to be constructed built the large gate as soon as possible, placing a helper there too. He also constructed the small gate but failed to place a helper in time to prevent Noel stealing in. Soon after, the Servant's House was built and Woody took the opportunity to try and corner the market there, acquiring two of the three available helper spots (Tom eventually taking the third). Paul and Noel both played their Master Builders at opportune points during the mid-game, acquiring easy VPs from the construction efforts of the others. However, Tom and Woody both played their Master Builder on the same round - as a result, there was no construction and both fell back in the overall reckoning.

Around this time, helpers were beginning to be replaced in the trading carts and the silver in the forge was rising quickly. Although, the minor helper spot in the forge had been acquired early on by Noel, a well timed swoop by Tom enabled him to gain the major spot just ahead of Woody. Meanwhile, Paul was quietly acquiring influence in the north-east of the castle, taking control of the keep and tavern. Noel had taken the opposite approach to Tom, looking to get VPs from house construction (rather than towers). Considering the higher VP value of houses over towers and Noel's additional investment in tower construction, this put Noel at a distinct advantage.

By the final round, it was all in the balance with Paul and Noel looking the likely winners. The vast majority of the castle had been constructed barring the untouched Palace and a number of houses & towers. As the role cards were turned over however, it appeared that no-one has anticipated the last minute rush to construct buildings... apart from Tom. With his Master Builder sitting pretty on its own, Tom put his feet up in his deckchair, sipping a Pina Colada, whilst the others put their heads down to build as many houses as possible and hope for the best. Unfortunately, the 25 VPs that Tom had acquired in the final round, plus a tidy 9 VPs from the overflowing forge, saw him to victory over the meticulous castle planning of Noel and Paul. Woody was demoted to latrine duty for a month by the lord of the castle for his poor efforts.

In summary, Tom is more than happy to admit that he benefited to a certain degree from others' unfamiliarity with the mechanics, poor pub lighting, and the fact that it was pressing on for the others' bed time by close of play. Waiting out until the end simply to play the Master Builder is not a great strategy in and of itself. It is very much a zero/sum card and has to be played on its merits or, in Tom's case, on a hope and a prayer. The interaction between the various roles brings out a good degree of tension (and fun table talk), avoiding the pitfall of multi-player solitaire. As a result, it will hopefully see the table again soon. Give it a few more plays and the dreaded winter cards may make an appearance, Noel?

Scores: Tom: 68, Noel: 62, Paul: 58, Woody: 45

Also played during the evening were the following games, although all taking part opted out of the glory fest that is report writing:

 - Puerto Rico
 - Flashpoint: Fire Rescue
 - Airlines Europe